Food Profile - African Walnuts

African walnuts (botanical name - tetracarpidium conophorum) are fruits of a woody perennial climber plant, found mostly in the dense rain-forest of Africa. (some also found in India). Locally referred to as asala, ewusa/awusa (Yoruba) ekporo in the Efik dialect and ukpa in Igbo.

Description: The fruits come in a hard kernel casing which releases a whitish round nut when cracked open. The shell colour often black but can be any shade of gray.

The entire plant including leaves and roots have nutritional and medicinal properties, for which it is cultivate. The fruits (which are basically a type of nut) are the most commonly used part of the plant, significantly used for food and also to extract its oil which has a very high value especially in medicine and pharmaceutical.

The fruit has a firm and crunchy texture with no overpowering flavours. But upon drinking water after consumption, one may experience an unusual bitter taste/sensation in the mouth. This is believed to be attributed to the presence of some variants of chemical alkaloids, tannins or phytochemicals. This however has no toxicity and of no danger to human consumption.

Nutritional Data based on 100g of shelled walnut kernels
Calories - 315kcal
Carbohydrates -13.14g
Protein - 24.01
Fats - 17.39
Fibre - 5.99
Vitamins: - C, E, B6, B7, thiamin, folate
Minerals: - Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Sodium
Fatty Acids - Omega 3 & 6

Health Use/Benefits
There are so many claims about the health benefits of African walnuts, some of which have been scientifically proven. However, I am more drawn towards the impressive nutritional profile of the fruit especially the amount of essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants it possesses. For this reason, I am of the opinion that this fruit should feature regularly in my diet, and I am exploring ways of achieving this aim. In my opinion, it is a super fruit / super food... and we should be eating more of it.

How to Cook/Eat African Walnuts
I love walnuts and I generally eat them boiled as a snack, though they can also be roasted. My mum and her mum assure me that boiled walnuts are a good substitute for egusi and can be used to make a dish similar to egusi soup(...yet to try that out, but will share with you once I do...!). I am of the opinion that the fruits are too good and healthy to only eat as a snack. So I decided to create a couple of salad dishes with them, with really good outcome. Find an example here...

Boiling requires cooking the unshelled fruits in water for a while and draining off before serving. Similarly the unshelled fruits can be baked or roasted in an oven. To cook in soups, the partially boiled fruits are shelled, milled into a paste and cooked as usual using an egusi soup recipe. 



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